Saturday, October 27, 2007

Radfahr from Wannsee to Potsdam

As athletic and robust as I think I am, today totally wiped me out, in a good way. I met my friend Sidra Stich at the American Academy in Wannsee, where she gave me an enlightening tour of the house and grounds. It's on the Wannsee, overlooking a long lawn and a harbor filled with sailboats belonging to nearby American expats. The house itself was beautifully updated by the Nazis, with gold leaf tile mosaic, secessionist grilles, etc. Owned by the Academy for the past 10 years, it houses 8 or so scholars at a time in fair luxury and enables them to progress in their research. Sidra is going to invite me to her presentation in December, and I can hardly wait.

So, we go down to the boat house to retrieve the bikes, a couple of vintage-types with a bit of cob webs, but no matter. Mine was a one-speeder (from the 60s?) whose tires we pumped up and !ready to go! we were off to the Pfauen Insel, or Peacock Island, a retreat for Willhelm II and his friends. The ferry runs regularly only till the 30th, so we wanted to be sure to see the island before then. It was a foggy day but we spent more than an hour walking the island and inspecting the wildlife (including a couple of tame foxes who nonchalantly walked right by us a couple of times) and the fantasy structures built as was the fashion in the 19th century to invoke the sense of far away places such as - a ridiculously fake looking crenellated castle, and a mini-greek temple. The trees were for the most part mature, remaining apparently untouched by the last war and its aftermath that decimated other local forests.

I was hungry, so we ate lunch at the shoreline restaurant. The Tages Angebote was Schweinhaxe, Kartoffeln and Kraut. I washed it down with a Gluhwein. Sidra only had the wine... I don't know how she made it through the rest of the day on only that because we were off again this time to Potsdam. I mentioned that my bike was a single speeder with fat tires so that you'll understand my legs ached at this point already. The fog settling on the Wannsee, the imposing forest, the wide paths and the orange carpet of leaves made me forget my quads for a while. Sorry no photos. Presently we came to the Potsdam Brucke, and we crossed into the town.

Our destination was Sans Souci Park and buildings built in the 18th century by Friedrich der Grosse. The enormous formal gardens are carefully populated by various structures... the well-touristed Schloss Sans Souci, a giant windmill, a Dragonhouse, a Chinese house, a Roman bath... you get the picture. What we were totally unprepared for, because the photo on the postcard is so small, was the Neue Schloss on the west end of the park. It was entirely gigantic and constructed of rose-colored brick with full-height statuary crowning each floor as it went up. Gold leaf details crowned the sculptures at intervals. The ediface, I said was enormous, but this word doesn't describe it adequately. I've never seen anything like it. Facing the Neue Schloss are two matching buildings with limestone collinades and copper domes that the map calls "liegenden Communs."

I would have liked to show photos, but I didn't bring my camera. Google the topic, it's worth it. And when you visit Berlin, don't miss San Souci.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Weekend in Alsace

Last Friday we all took a plane to Baden-Baden, for a weekend exploring Alsace. The 6 am flight left us all a bit groggy for the first event, a visit to Rastatt and the Visus Media studios, where we were hosted by Matthias Weyrauch. After a lovely lunch, Tristan gave us a presentation about the studio's work, then a photoshoot, then we were off to the races at Iffezheim. Few were prepared for how fun that was... thanks Matthias for the treat! Here are some photos.

I lost a lot of money on this race (5 euro)

Taking a lap after the race

Matthias' intern; Isabelle, our SIU Coordinator for the trip; Rob J; and Matthias

After the races we warmed up in the bus (it was pretty chilly there, even with Gluhwein, Wurstel and Linsensuppe), we drove off to Strasbourg. Imagine our disappointment when we saw where we were staying (view from my window):

Chateau Pourtales was built in the 18th century as a hunting lodge and soon after expanded to its current proportions. Its famous (repeated) guests included Albert Schweitzer, Friedrich Schiller, and Franz Liszt. There's also a ghost. Its extensive grounds are filled with footpaths that are used by townspeople and students; and they are lined with site-specific contemporary sculpture. Nearby-very near- is a Radfahrweg (bike trail) that winds through three countries, from Frankfurt to Basel.

At this point my camera stopped taking photos. Until we went on a sidetrip to Colmar, which was picturesque enough. Here are photos, without commentary:

Matthias Grunewald's Isenheim Alterpiece:

My camera is in bad shape, or maybe it's the memory card. I don't have shots of the wineries or the wine tastings. Also I don't have any from Strasbourg, although it is of course almost as amazing to a tourist as Colmar. The Cathedral especially. I bought boots at Galleries Lafayette - and they're not practical either. Also I paid retail.

Maybe the highlight of the trip - if you could imagine anything topping those scenes from Colmar - was the bonfire and "BBQ" hosted by Isabelle and Willi at the Chateau. Around 2 big campfires were 26 leisure chairs, and a big grill area out of which would come the most heavenly food - fish, then chicken, then a variety of local sausages, accompanied by seven or eight sauces, salads, breads, and your choice of Alsatian wines and beers. One student declared it her favorite night of the entire Ai Study Abroad program so far. Probably not an exaggeration!

Special thanks to Isabelle and Willi for the fabulous time in Strasbourg and at the Chateau.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Schlactensee photos

It was a week ago now that I took another run around the Schlactensee. It was around 70 degrees and heavenly... but I took no camera. So I returned on Thursday when it was cloudy and cold, but took some shots while the trees were still turning. I'll try again this week.

red ducks? they must be ducks

this is a storefront in the town

Monday, October 15, 2007


Yesterday offered a glorious, warm, clear afternoon to seek out another nearby lake for a walk-around. Not far from the L4 where we have our digital studies is the town of Weissensee. My guidebook said I'd find some impressive house architecture and the old jewish cemetery, but I'd not taken the book along so I'd be freed up for a run. So instead, as usual, I wandered around and saw normal things and missed the attractions. Can go back!

This plaque reads:
"The inheritance of fascism was rubbish and ruin.
This park comes into being through the volunteer work of the national construction workers
A work of peace"

The past weekend was chock full of art events. On Saturday, L4 hosted “So Klingt Berlin,” a weekend-long symposium on music marketing that culminated in a band competition at a local club on Sunday night. A fabulous time was had by all students and instructors who took part THANKS INGRID AND ALL STUDENTS AT L4.

At TAKT Gallery, Marcus Ahlers, Antje Görtner and Henriette Böhmert-Leske were our hosts for an exhibition of work by Jürgen Grewe, a painter whose work you can check out his his site.

Sidra Strich, my art friend from the Berlin Academy, and Carla Guagliardi, an installation artist who lives in Prenzlauerberg met me for a gallery tour. They chose the galleries, and the high point was Mike Kelly’s Kandor .

Thursday, October 11, 2007


Yesterday I took the train to Schlactensee, a small town just outside of Wannsee, to the west of Berlin. There is a beautiful lake there (the Schlactensee) surrounded by a forest (the Grünewald) and the train left me off within sight of each. So since I was dressed for a run, with my water jar on a belt, I started off clockwise around the See... first stopping to warm up where a man on a motorbike shouted "Lass der Baum stehen!" when I pressed against a tree to stretch my calves... then I ran along the street a bit to get a look at the architecture, big turn-of-the-century houses with flowerboxes cascading form each window. Not Bavarian, but solid and impressive by size and workmanship.

Around the See, there were pine trees, leaf trees just starting to change and shed, and dogs, kids, older couples walking hand in hand. The dogs are all VERY well behaved. All of them. They don't even use leashes here. The dogs heel and walk along with their masters, ignoring me!!! The kids sprawl out under trees to eat some snack, and the adults gather at the cafe to the north of the lake, where all sorts of wonderful refreshments are sold in the most exquisite surroundings.

It reminded me of my parents, walking on paths through the woods. Ducks. Geese. Swamp and beach. Mom and dad are there in my imagination.

I had no idea how far it was around the lake, but luckily for me it was only about 4 miles. Afterwards, I took a leisurely walk through town and then hopped the train back to Berlin. Magic.

I wish I had photos! Next time I go, the trees will be colorful and I'll take pictures.

Monday, October 08, 2007


About 200 kM in the direction of (and halfway to) Prague is Dresden, the city that was largely destroyed by Allied firebombing during WWII. Marion (one of our German organizers) also said that during the cold war it was the only place in east Germany that you could not get radio or television from the west. Such suffering is not apparent in a three-hour day trip to a city that has plenty of rebuilt monuments in its old center. In addition to wandering the streets and for me, one museum, we had a splendid lunch at Luisenhof, on a mountain overlooking the city; and a tour of the VW Gläserne Manufaktur, where they hand-build the Phaeton, VW's luxury model. The late day was capped off with dinner at a brew pub where exhausted students quaffed major amounts of beer...

Lunch was really too good for us. We are learning NOT to scrape our chairs!

Ashley out in the garden

Shanda taking a break from lunch

Buildings in Dresden - fine

Want to go to an art school in Dresden? This is their Art Academy

For my mom, a statue of Martin Luther (hi Mom)

VW Gläserne Manufactur

VW GM Inside - Phaetons start at 69K euro and go up to 179K... sorry you can't get them in the US! Also, they don't come with manual transmission...

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Reunification Day

Wednesday was such a wonderful day. I drew for a while, ripped that up, then went for a long run: between the "wall" and the Spree, then through town and small community gardens, finally to the Museum Insel, where there were lines and lines of flea markets. There were plenty of Russian tschotschkes - the nested dolls, cheap amber - a lot of books, WWII and DDR memorabilia, gorgeous handmade hats and cloth bags, antique dishware... altogether something to revisit. Along the way, I heard and saw traditional chinese musicians, irish fiddlers, classical duos, every kind of eating...

Later, after a lunch of fresh vegetables and exquisite leftovers from the night before, I worked a bit on my next day's class. Then, I took another walk downtown for the Reunification Day celebration. I walked through the Tiergarten, up Unter den Linden, through the Holocaust memorial, to the Brandenburger Tor where someone was bungie jumping and someone else (presumably a rock star) was belting it out on the big screen.

Bismarck Memorial

Boulevard 17 Juni (looking through the Tiergarten away from Brandenburger Tor)

Bungie guy goes up...

Bungie guy comes down.

Holocaust memorial

Jumped on the S bahn to Sevigny Platz in Charlottenburg, where I met Sidra Strich, an art historian who is a Berlin Academy fellow in Wansee until January. We ate at a really good Chinese restaurant, talk talk talked and agreed to go to Dresden together on Saturday. (turns out, the group is going to Dresden tomorrow, and she can't go along).

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

First Day of Classes +

Yesterday I went over to the gym "Fitness Center" with some students and signed myself up for a membership. On Monday, Stef had negotiated with the man behind the counter for students to receive a specially priced deal on membership - and I wanted to make sure to get it! The gym is on the 3rd floor (four flights up) of a courtyard building. THe main room is filled with machines and weights, stretching mats, etc. All of the guys are hot. Up a winding staircase are two tanning booths (one for strong, one for light), the locker and shower rooms (very nice), the yoga/pilates/step/etc studio (big, lined with mirrors and a beautiful view of Friedrichshain) and a sauna that is adjacent to a beautiful serpentine tile-walled shower and a spa-style relaxation room. The sauna is women only for some hours on tuesdays, otherwise for both sexes.

You're probably wondering what the view is out the window of my room:

Two shots of the school, yes it's the Nouveau building:

This is a view across the street from the school:

The school is about a 15-minute strassenbahn ride away. Yesterday was the first day for the animation class; everything went smoothly except the projector took some getting used to: it projected an image seemingly 10 feet tall and 15 feet wide! I'm not good with sizes so I may be off by some. The windows in the room are double-insulated, and both sets swing in with handles. I'll take photos next time I go.

The special topics class client is Marcus Ahlers of Takt Gallery. He also runs a residency program. That's where artists come to make art for a certain amount of time, and the host provides housing and whatever other agreed-upon necessities. We're looking forward to his gallery tour, which will take place next Thursday.

Art Forum Berlin Part 3

These are the last photos I will post from AF Berlin. The first are mostly made from tape... kind of a trend at the show, across galleries.

Both of these, from Karl Heinz Meyer Gallery, Karlsruhe

Karl Heinz Meyer Gallery, Karlsruhe

This and the next, Patricia Low Contemporary, Gstaad

Patricia Low Contemporary, Gstaad
These very large drawings/paintings are on tissue paper - fragile, ephermeral surfaces that seem like they will dissolve with water or a light wind.

Veracores Gallery, Lisbon

Veracores Gallery, Lisbon